With world-famous runs, excellent facilities, and all the après-ski options one could dream of; the French Alps need no introduction to Winter fans. If anything, a visit as often as possible.
Nonetheless, having such an outstanding catalog of available ski domains, deciding on one to visit can seem an impossible and overwhelming task. But fear not, after five winter seasons leading groups to ski, one summer working on a glacier and the odd trip before and after, I got my priorities in the Northern French Alps straight. And these are as simple as Les Portes du Soleil.
Les Portes du Soleil
This Franco-Swiss area is, with its 650km of pistes and 197 lifts, one of the world’s largest (with 13 resorts and stretching over 400 square miles from Mont Blanc to Lake Geneva) as well as the closest major ski area to Geneva airport, in Switzerland.
Great for freestyle and freeriding skiing
Those looking for adrenaline kicks will love than Portes du Soleil boasts more than a handful of parks, a few free-to-use airbags to practice jumps and the occasional superpipe when snow conditions allow.
However, the icing on the cake is ‘The Stash’ by Burton: a freestyle snowboarding and skiing run carved among Lindarets’ pines on the French side. There, rails, jumps, boxes, pyramids, walls and many other modules are made from logs and rough-cut timber. For those getting started, there’s also a Lil Stash a few hundred meters from Avoriaz.
Expert riders and pow hunters will also enjoy the extensive backcountry slopes and many accessible off-piste options to be explored.
Where to stay in Portes du Soleil
There are a few villages where to stay in Portes du Soleil. Choosing one comes down to how close to the pistes and nightlife you want to be. These are the best options on the French side:
- Les Gets: One of the smallest, has enough nightlife to keep most entertained. In fact, the epic Rock the Pistes music festival takes place there – and across a few other Portes du Soleil selected spots – every March. It is also compact, which comes in handy if walking everywhere is on your plans. However, it is on the periphery of the ski area and I’ve found their lifts are many times closed, what makes a trip to the nearest one mandatory, and in the end a hard choice. Beginners oriented.
- Avoriaz: Perched on the edge of a 500ft cliff is Avoriaz, the most central and busy of all the Portes du Soleil villages. It is full of huge apartment blocks, horse-drawn sleighs (as cars are forbidden), businesses of all kinds and sizes (including L’Aquariaz, an indoor water park), and people all Winter long. Its nightlife is unrivaled too – with this year opening of yet another La Folie Douce – which makes it less than ideal for those looking for a quieter time. Snowboxx music festival takes place there towards the end of the Winter season.
- Montriond: Tiny and convenient for skiing as it is quite central, it is right next to Morzine. Montriond is a great option for catered chalet ski holidays as the Ardent lift, arguably the best Portes du Soleil access point, is only 5 minutes away by car.
- Morzine: Also quite central, it is one of the largest villages in this domain. It has everything one could wish: a picturesque valley town with traditional wooden chalets, fairy lights, tranquil cafes and restaurants, a perfect play area for all the family, and a thriving nightlife for those in the mood for partying. On the other hand, Morzine is one of the most spread out villages too, which makes it perfect for having the best of both worlds: busy and quiet. In terms of accessing the pistes, you can choose either side of the huge Alpine area (Nyon, Les Gets, Mont Chery, and Morzine) or the wider Portes du Soleil side (Avoriaz, Chatel) without too much hassle and with great runs for skiers of all abilities. Morzine ski holidays are very popular among Brits.
Related read: European Ski Resorts You’ll Want To Visit Next
Chalet Bizet, a safe bet for your ski chalet holidays
638 Route du Crêt, 74110 Montriond
Morzine-Montriond is one of the best spots to be based from in Les Portes du Soleil, and Alikats Mountain Holidays has six gorgeous catered chalets in the Montriond area of Morzine: Debussy, Ferme a Jules, l’Ange, Riverwood Lodge, The View, and Chalet Bizet.
I was lucky to experience Alikats’ Bizet Chalet for a few days last December. It has stunning architecture and Parisian design as well as a dedicated in-house chef, private chauffeur service between 8 am and 10 pm, an outdoor hot tub that fits 4 people, a large ski and boot room with a heated boot rack, a spacious and cozy living area with a fireplace, a stylish and well-stocked honesty bar available 24/7, en-suite rooms with radiators in every bathroom to dry ski clothes, and superb views over Morzine’s valley.
A 1.5hr drive from Geneva airport, weather depending, Chalet Bizet is also only a few minutes drive from the lifts. The private chauffeur service goes anywhere in the Morzine resort. The closest lifts are the super-fast Ardent gondola, which is just 6 minutes from the chalet and takes you right into the middle of the Avoriaz ski area and the Pleney gondola, which gives you access to the Morzine/Les Gets ski area. From both lifts, the ski resorts of Morzine, Les Gets, Avoriaz, Chatel as well as all the Swiss ones are accessible.
Ski hire is arranged by their partner company Ski Mobile that come straight to the chalet when you arrive and fit you out with all the kit you need so that you don’t have to lug boots and skis or boards around town. Ski passes, on the other hand, are waiting for you when you arrive at the chalet.
Chalet Bizet is available on a catered chalet basis only, that includes freshly cooked à la carte breakfasts, mouth-watering pastries at tea-time, pre-dinner cocktails, canapés to kickstart the evening, gourmet four-course evening dinner with good quality unlimited wine (cooked by trained chefs that go the extra mile in catering for people with special food requirements), and digestifs.
It sleeps from six to nine people in two junior suites and a spacious double bedroom. Alikats has seven-night packages starting at 995 / ?875 per person per week, including wine with dinner. Excludes flights and transfers.
Taking care of our environment
The best, however, aren’t Alikat’s relaxed and hassle-free mountain holidays at such great rates for the outstanding service provided, but the environmental efforts its committed team is doing towards reducing the large carbon-footprint usually attached to skiing holidays.
After a great season as chalet hosts in Morzine in 2010, the young couple Al and Kat started Alikats in 2010. Seven seasons after, they run 6 modern alpine feel catered chalets and seven self-catered ones in the area, on top of a refreshing team of over 25 smiley, passion-driven mountain enthusiasts.
They all are shaping what mountain holidays should be these days, training every person in sustainability, using as much local food as possible, choosing organic cleaning products, recycling and minimizing waste, ditching single-use plastics (a reusable water pouch is given for free to every guest and eco-friendly REN hand-wash, hand-cream, and body-wash can be found in every room instead), reducing energy consumption, and rewarding sustainable means of transport among other measures.
Thus, during the first two months of this winter, they offered free transfers with their partners Skiidy Gonzales from Geneva to all customers arriving by train to the city (it only takes a six-and-a-half-hour train ride to reach Geneva from London St Pancras), as choosing the train over flying cuts CO2 emissions per passenger by 90% (73 percent of an average ski resort’s carbon footprint is created by a visitor’s mode of transport while 2 percent of emissions come from lift services and pistes On the Snow reported). And they regularly have similar offers, so if sustainability is important to you – which should be for everyone – stay tuned for their news.
Have a look at Alikats’ Environmental Policy for more info.
Disclaimer: I was invited by Alikats to stay 3 nights in their gorgeous Djamileh bedroom in Bizet Chalet. Complimentary return transfers from Geneva were provided by Skiidy Gonzales, snowboard hire by Ski Mobile, and ski-passes by Morzine Avoriaz. In any case, all opinions here are my own.